BALTIMORE -- The White Sox and Baltimore Orioles will make major league history on Wednesday afternoon when they play in front of a closed stadium.
But at this point, that’s all White Sox players and coaches know about what to expect when they take the field at 2:05 p.m. EST with nobody else inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards aside from media, scouts and team officials.
Their three-game series halted for two days because of Monday’s citywide unrest, the White Sox and Orioles are set to play for the first time this week with one caveat -- they’ll do it front of 45,971 empty seats. The silent venue is just another twist on what has been a surreal and somewhat scary week for the White Sox, who head to Minneapolis to open a four-game series Thursday.
“I don’t think anyone is prepared to play in this atmosphere or not,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s going to be strange. There’s no way around it. For us the focus is to go out and play baseball. But it’s going to be strange, for sure.”
Since word came down on Tuesday afternoon that the series would resume on Wednesday, several players have suggested the experience would be akin to spring training B games and similar minor league experiences. But those games take place on backfields at major league training facilities where a few dozen fans can sit on aluminum benches and not in one of Major League Baseball’s most pristine parks.
Though MSNBC reported early Wednesday that the Orioles plan to run their regular in-game operations, including walkup music and players announced as they hit as well as the National Anthem -- the team isn’t commenting on the process, a spokesperson said.
“I don’t think the strangeness has set in right now,” infielder Gordon Beckham said. “I’ve never played in a big league stadium that was empty. The closest I came was at the end of the season in Cleveland when there was like 1,000 people there. It’ll be interesting. We’ve talked about possibly doing some cheering without any noise just to, kind of, add to it. If somebody gets a hit, give them (a silent clap) without saying anything to kind of add to the ambiance. So we’ll see.”
[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy an Adam Eaton jersey here]
Adam Eaton was asked about the cues crowds provide on how hard a ball has been hit or if a pitch gets past the catcher. He expects that to be an added element to the uniqueness of the affair.
“Hearing is huge for an outfielder,” Eaton said. “You hear balls in the gap, how hard it’s hit, how weakly it’s hit. You know if a ball gets by the catcher, if a guy is stealing, you can hear that all from the crowd. So it is going to be different, but we’ve done it before when we were in the minor leagues and we’ll have to bring those senses back and really pay attention.”
Without a crowd, players expect to hear broadcasters, who are situated about 180 feet behind home plate. They’ll be able to hear each other, including third-base coaches shouting instructions at players. And there will be an absence of hecklers from the stands, too.
“It will be a different feeling,” designated hitter Adam LaRoche said. “You get used to fans, whether it’s 5,000 or 50,000, you get used to that. Anytime you do something you’re not used to or something that’s a little odd it’s going to be different.”